Knoxville Film and Music Festival Returns for Bigger and Better Second Year

The Knoxville Film and Music Festival will return next weekend, kicking off two weeks of events. Last year the festival drew more than 5,000 people downtown last year, says festival director Michael Samstag, and this year more folks could show up.

Scruffy City Hall and Preservation Pub will pretty much be KFMF headquarters for the two weeks of festivities, starting with Market Squaroo, the unofficial pre-Bonnaroo concert hosted by the Knoxville Music Warehouse on Thursday, June 5, with the Jojax, Copper Into Steel, Roots of a Rebellion, Masseuse, Kink Ador, and Lines Taking Shape. The next day, Scruffy City Hall will screen the festival organizers' favorite entries from four previous years of the 24-Hour Film Festival, kicking off the movie portion of the event. The conclusion of Preservation Pub's Band Eat Band competition will be held on Saturday at Scruffy City, and Knoxville filmmaker Alex Oliver will screen his feature film Voyage, which Samstag says is "a very well-put-together film" on Sunday.

Throughout the week, several feature films will make their world (or Tennessee) premiers, including the documentary Blackout on Swan Pond, about the Kingston coal ash spill a few years ago. Samstag says the comedy Jammed is likely to be picked up for distribution after it makes the festival rounds. He says another not-to-miss screening is Papaya: Make Some Noise! on Thursday, June 12. The documentary is about an EDM music festival in Croatia, and Samstag says one of the DJs featured in the film is flying in to host a party after the screening.

Overall, the collection of short and feature-length films is "a really eclectic mix, but it's all really approachable," he says.

Samstag explains the partnership with Scott and Bernadette West, who own Scruffy City Hall and the Preservation Pub, was forged when Samstag mentioned to them he wanted to develop a cinepub downtown. That's exactly what SCH has turned out to be, Samstag says, and is outfitted with a high-quality sound system and movie projector, including a built-in screen.

The judging panel for the film festival includes Frank Agnone, the executive producer of South Park; Lela Meadow-Conner, the executive director of the Tallgrass Film Festival; David Dwyer, who had a role in the 2009 movie The Blind Side; and Joel Trussell, a Disney animator and Knoxville ex-pat. Samstag says every year, he tries to make sure the judging panel includes actors, directors, journalists, and festival directors.

But at its heart, the KFMF is really a fun celebration of movies and music—essentially a two-week-long party, Samstag says.

"It's Knoxville's premier music and film festival," Samstag says, "[But] we don't take ourselves too seriously."